The Russians Are Coming!
One of the main objectives in manning the Pinetree Line was to allow for detection and early warning of incoming enemy aircraft. But just who was the enemy?
I suppose the Cold War dictated that the enemy would more than likely consist of Soviet Bloc or Russian aircraft. Certainly this was the case in the 1950s and 1960s.
So there you were. Working at a Pinetree Line site – waiting, and waiting, and waiting. I would venture to guess that every one of the 44 radar stations which made up the Pinetree Line managed to plot, track and identify a large number of tracks as "Unknown". But how many of these aircraft were actually Russian or Soviet Bloc?
In my opinion – we will never have the ability to answer that question. Many of us have heard stories from co-workers about picking up a Soviet aircraft – but very few of us can actually claim that we were there at the time.
It is safe to assume that most, if not all of the Soviet Bloc intrusions were either on the east or the west coasts. I mean no disrespect, but I have difficulty envisioning one of the Prairie stations (or even those in Ontario) ever having tracked a Soviet Bloc aircraft unless it was on a pre-approved flight plan. That would leave us to imagine that the majority of Soviet Bloc intrusions were either Atlantic or Pacific encounters.
In the area of written documentation – well this is a little more difficult to deal with as we have not been able to obtain too much to substantiate the actual situation.
The Historical Reports for the 12th AC&W Squadron located at Mont Apica, Quebec revealed the following:
13 Jun 58
A Russian TU-104 aircraft was tracked from Goose Bay to Ottawa.
12 Sep 60
Largo advised that five Russian trawlers are fishing in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence.
The Historical Report for the 641st AC&W Squadron (Melville AFS) located at Goose Bay, Labrador revealed the following:
1 June 1968 to 30 September 1968
Number of Soviet Block tracks identified - 126
The Historical Report for the 21st AC&W Squadron located at St. Margarets, New Brunswick revealed the following:
3 Sep 57
Dr. G Lindsay, ADC Ops research visited this unit for purposed of evaluating TU-104 overflight.
4, 7, 14, 17 Sep 57
Russian TU-104 flew through our area on these flights to and from New York. Complete records of the radar tracking information was sent to ADCHQ. The flight was also witnessed and evaluated by ADC Ops Research personnel.
6 Feb 58
This sub-sector was penetrated by Russian TU-104 on a flight from Gander Nfld. to New York. Complete records of radar tracking information were kept and forwarded to ADCHQ. As of this date it was forbidden to intercept any SAC aircraft.
28 Jun 59
A Russian TU-114 carried by TE radar from 1308 – 1349Z as it passed en route to New York from Goose Bay.
13 Jul 59
A Russian TU-114 and a TU-104 passed through our area, carried on TE radar for a 24 minute period.
8 Sep 59
A Russian TU-104 carried by TE radar as it passed through a portion of the sub-sector.
15 Sep 59
A Russian TU-104 followed by a Russian TU 114 were carried on TE radar en route to Washington.
24 Sep 59
Another Russian TU-104 carried on TE radar en route to the United States.
27 Sept 59
A Russian TU-104 carried by TE radar en route to Washington.
1 Oct 59
Russian TU-114 carried by TE radar en route back to Moscow.
We were more fortunate with extracts from the 22 AC&W Squadron, Beaverbank, NS, narrative reports – again as proof that there was a reason for our being there in the first place. It is safe to assume that all of the Soviet aircraft activity mentioned by Beaverbank were flying in accordance with flight plans. The trawler activity in the coastal waters is another matter.
This twin engine commercial jet transport was a derivative of the TU-16 Badger. The TU-16 was a Soviet heavy bomber and the answer to the RAF Vulcan and the USAF B-47.
This four engine commercial turboprop transport was a derivative of the TU-95 Bear.
This was a four engine turboprop airliner.
Finally - it should be mentioned that the insertion of aircraft photos throughout the deatils of the Beaverbank narrative report have been added simply to provide you with an idea as to what this radar station was dealing with and referring to.
4 Sep 57
Mohawk advises Russian aircraft due off Goose Bay at 2250Z – B-47’s escort off Portsmouth 2245Z direct to Goose Bay.
14 Sep 57
Tracked Soviet aircraftRussian TU-104 jet passenger aircraft on this date.
17 Sep 57
TU-104 will be late. Time not known. Garfield escort will wait for TU-104. Garfield 55 SOS. Aircraft crew bailed out. Search and Rescue dispatched to area from Capable. Garfield 45 still in general area.
6 Oct 57
Report seeing Russian satellite"Sputnik" low in altitude, travelled at flashing speed.
6 Feb 58
TU-104 passed through our area in the afternoon.
10 Feb 58
TU-104 passed through our area on return trip.
26 Feb 58
20 surface vessels sighted at 4334 degrees North 5000 degrees West identified as Russian trawlers. These ships have been under observation for some time.
13 Jun 58
Carried RussianRussian TU-104 for approximately 175 miles.
13 Jun 58
The following detail has been extracted from the Narrative Reports at Lac St. Denis, Quebec.A Russian TU-104 was carried through the sub-sector on its way to Vancouver.
28 Jun 59
TU-114 – Goose Bay direct Idlewilde overflew this area.
5 Jul 59
Russian TU-114 kept under surveillance through this area. Ground speed 460k at 36,000 feet.
11 Jul 59
Russian TU-104 jet passenger aircraft given surveillance on overfly this area. Handed over to 26th Air Division.
13 Jul 59
Russian TU-114 overflew this area on return trip to Russia.
12 Sep 59
Aeroflot 75749 IL-18 advance party for Khruschev passed this area States bound.
15 Sep 59
One TU-104 and one Russian TU-114 with Khruschev overflew this area on way to Washington.
18 Sep 59
One TU-104 overflew area on return to Russia.
20 Sep 59
One TU-104 overflew this area on return to Russia.
21 Sep 59
TU-104, courier aircraft, overflew area on way to States.
23 Sep 59
One Russian TU-104 jet passenger aircraft overflew area on return to Russia.
28 Sep 59
Two Russian aircraft overflew area on return flight to Russia.
2 Oct 59
TU-114 overflew area eastbound.
17 Nov 59
Aeroflot 75696 landed Mikoyan at Halifax on his trip to Mexico City.
18 Nov 59
Aeroflot 75696 handed over to Bankmud control.
28 Nov 59
Aeroflot 75696 carrying Mikoyan on his return to Russia passed this area.
30 Jun 60
Because of the presence of USSR trawlers off the Halifax coast line this unit was placed on a limited state of operations. This lasted until 3 Jul 60.
6 Jul 60
Because of the presence of Soviet vessels in coastal waters, this unit went on "minimize". This condition of security lasted until 1927Z 7 Jul.
19 Sep 60
Aeroflot 42463 overflew this area on flight Boston to Gander.
21 Sep 60
Operation "Round Robin" flight of Russian TU-104 jet passenger aircraft overflew this area.
13 Dec 60
Special 16 Soviet IL-18 landed at Sydney on flight from Goose Bay to Havana, Cuba. Aircraft and passengers remained in Sydney overnight.
14 Dec 60
Special 16 overflew this area enroute to Havana. Close liaison maintained between this unit and Bangor while this aircraft was in our area.
5 Aug 61
Soviet Soviet IL-18 designated "Special 21" landed at Halifax International at 1254Z. This aircraft carried "Yuri Gagarin" and entourage from Cuba to Halifax to be the guests of Cyrus Eaton.
6 Aug 61
At 0913Z this unit was advised by St. Margarets that Russia had launched another space vehicle carrying "Major Titov" (far right) into orbit. Soviet Soviet IL-18 (Aeroflot 75708) carrying "Yuri Gagarin" (far left) departed Halifax at 1855Z. Carried by this unit as track number X623. At 1820Z the track was being carried by Sydney.
2 Sep 61
Request received from Barrington for this unit to provide close surveillance on Cubana 476 which landed at Halifax International at 2012Z. Cubana 476 was subsequently airborne at 2256Z, with destination Czechoslovakia. Carried as track number X651.
5 Oct 61
Aeroflot 75724 (Russian IL-18) carried as Special 10, track number Y493, landed at Halifax International at 1735Z. Special 10 again airborne at 1901Z and carried as track number X666 by this unit. Practice intercepts with F2H Banshee aircraft.
11 Oct 61
Advised Soviet Soviet IL-18 , call sign RPJUG, leaving Havana for Soviet. This aircraft will pass through Halifax area. Landed at Halifax at 2035Z. Practice intercepts with CF-100s.
12 Oct 61
Soviet aircraft off Halifax at 0835Z. Carried as X676. Practice intercepts with F2H Banshee aircraft.
24 Oct 62
Cuban Crisis – 22 AC&W Squadron placed on Defcon 3 at 1732Z. One week supply of food was placed in the Operations kitchen. Two dormitories were set up, one for airwomen and the other for officers and men. Capacity 30. A Deputy Battle Commander was on 15 minutes standby. All flights placed on 15 minute standby and increased manning implemented. Security checks in Operations building carried out hourly, around the clock. Fire arms issued to all officers and WOs. 22 AC&W placed on Defcon 5 at 0020Z.
We do not have any documentation that details the ongoing "cat and mouse" air activity that existed during the 1950s and 1960s between Soviet bloc bombers and our NORAD jet fighters. We can however, offer the following photographs of Russian bomber intercepts – just to prove that this sort of thing actually did happen. I guess there was a reason for our being at Pinetree Line locations after all.
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Updated: April 6, 2005